What's Next for Enterprise Data Centers?

That’s an easy question, right? More use of colocation or cloud facilities surely means that legacy data centers are being downsized if not decommissioned. And that you can forget about building a new enterprise data center.

Well, maybe. It all depends.

At the recent Critical Facilities Summit, I got a sense of how complex that question is. For example, when Hennepin County completed a major data center renovation, it pulled back in-house data processing formerly located in colos. The county now offers colocation to other organizations. Clemson University has taken a similar approach, hosting applications from South Carolina state agencies.

Could other organizations go that route? Or decide to launch an IT initiative requiring space in a legacy data center? And what impact will new accounting rules for leases have on the decision to move to colos or the cloud?

Even if an organization increases its use of colocation or the cloud, and of course many are doing just that, the impact on existing data centers is an open question. If an organization’s demand for computing power is growing rapidly, the load on existing data centers might not be declining much, if at all. Even if the number of servers is dropping, the ones that remain may still be mission critical and demand high availability. (For more on the question of legacy data centers, see the Building Operating Management article, “Is a legacy data center worth upgrading?”)

The point is that, even when organizations increase their use of colos or the cloud, enterprise data centers continue to play an essential role in the IT strategy of most organizations and can’t be ignored. It’s up to facility managers to educate top management about the value that enterprise data centers provide and to make the case for ongoing investment when that’s needed.